Archive for September, 2009

Sin is Alive in the World

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

 

September 27, 2009

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Num 11:25-29; James 5: 1-6; Mk 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

Dc. Larry Brockman

Sin is real!  Alive and well in our world.  Personal sin.  It is a central topic in today’s readings. 

First, James paints a picture that makes it sound like the rich are truly doomed, about to be damned for their sins against everybody else.  But, it would be a mistake to think that this reading applies just to the rich, and not to us.  Because James central point is that people hoard out of selfishness, and all of us are guilty of that sin to some extent.  We all have a tendency to jealously guard what we perceive as our own.  Not only that, other sin often accompanies our attempts to guard what is ours.  For example, which of us doesn’t bend the rules in our favor every chance we get, without concern for what it does to others.   

And then Jesus gives advice like this:  “It is better for you to enter life crippled, than with two feet to be thrown into Hell!”  Wow, such strong words.  We are being chastised to be careful of anything that may lead us to sin, our feet, our eyes, and our hands included.  Jesus tells us we would be better off without hands, feet and eyes if they lead us to sin, because, the day of judgment is coming when we will be held accountable for all that we have done. 

In fact, we are at that time in the Church year when we are reminded of judgment because we are getting close to Advent, and the coming of Christ.  And Advent heralds the coming of both the Christ Child, and Christ’s Second Coming at the Last Judgment.  And so, we would do well to reflect on our sins, whatever they are.

 We may think we can hide them from our fellow man, like the hoarding of wealth.  It’s as if we safely tuck away some of our sins in the back of our minds, sins like jealousy, gluttony, lust, and even anger,  Resolving not to express what we think and do in private.   We think we can hide these from almost everyone else.  But, we cannot hide them from God.  And on judgment day, they will be laid out in the brightness of God’s light. 

Now there are a couple of things that are worth mentioning about this type of personal sin.  First, it affects others in ways that we probably cannot see.  We may think that it is personal and internal, but it isn’t.  That’s because things like jealousy, envy, and lust are reflected to others by our personalities. They may not appear as clearly and directly, but they are reflected by the whole person we are  Much like our images are reflected in a mirror.  Other people can see us the way we really are, even when we think we are hiding from them.  They see it in an edge in our attitude, a sarcastic word, or an unkind remark, and even by silence when we should speak up.  So, this type of personal sin does contribute to the culture of the world, and we are responsible for it.  Jesus comments on that in the Gospel when he says that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin” would be better with a milestone tied around them. 

That’s why it is so important to reflect deep down within ourselves, and identify this type of personal sin.   We don’t take the time to do that in our society very often,  and so, we can make today an opportunity to do that.   

Secondly, this type of sin can be forgiven.  We need to confess it to Our Lord, and make a real act of contrition.  For us who are Catholic, we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  That makes it straightforward for us to get the burden off of ourselves and feel God’s grace in the sacrament of Reconciliation.  Now these kinds of sins, especially when not confessed, make us feel guilty deep down.  But once forgiven, we need not feel guilt any more.  We are freed from guilt by the mercy that God shows us.  We just need to resolve to avoid that sin in the future and then, we need not fear that coming judgment.   

Buried in today’s scripture is a really hopeful lesson about the Last Judgment because Jesus also says that “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, will surely not lose his reward”.  And so, as somber as the Last Judgment may seem, because we fear the wrath of God regarding our sin, the fact is that Judgment can, and will be a time of great rejoicing for those who believe. 

For those who have demonstrated their Faith with works, works as simple as offering a cup of water to a brother in Christ, the last Judgment will be a time of great joy!

On Procrastination

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

 

September 24, 2009

Thursday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time

Hag 1: 1-8; Lk 9: 7-9

Dc. Larry Brockman

Years ago Johnny Carson used to feature a young fellow named Bob every once and a while who was the consummate procrastinator.  He would put off just about everything till later, and make a joke about it.  It was a great routine.  It was funny, but at the same time it often hit home, because all of us procrastinate, all of us put off some important tasks as we go through life. 

Herod was such a man.  Fascinated by reports of both St. John the Baptist and Jesus, Herod wanted to know more.  The Gospel says of Herod “And he kept trying to see him”.  So basically he procrastinated- he put it off. 

We can only speculate on the reason.  Was it because he was too lazy?  Was it because he thought he was too busy- preoccupied with his important position?  Or perhaps it was it because he wanted Jesus to come to him, a man of importance, rather than He, Herod, making the first step? 

Now sometimes we wait to do something important as well.  And we will use excuses like the ones above.  When you think about it, the three reasons boil down to this: laziness, arrogance, and pride.  That sounds kind of harsh, but when you cut away all the words around the excuses, these are what remain.  The devil knows how to use these human tendencies, and he is active and alive in procrastinators because the easiest of all things to do, is to do nothing at all. 

Yet, some of the things that we put on the back burner are important-  resolving problems with those we love; confessing our sins and making restitution; making changes that we know are needed in our lives; and lot’s of other things. 

The bottom line is this.  The Gospel is not just talking about Herod.  The Gospel is talking about us. 

Recognizing Our Own Humanity

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

September 17, 2009

Thursday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time

1 Tim 4: 12-16; Lk 7: 36-50

Dc. Larry Brockman

How would you feel if someone barged uninvited into your home while you were having a dinner guest, and upstaged you in front of your honored guest?  And to make matters worse, suppose the intruder was a neighbor who continually made trouble.  Chances are you would be upset.  That’s what happened to this Pharisee and he was upset.  So, why does Jesus take the intruder’s side? 

Now the Pharisee’s invite to Jesus was the in-thing to do.  Jesus was the talk of the town.  Everybody sought after him at that time.  How fortunate was this Pharisee to have his invitation accepted.  But in reality, the Pharisee lacks sincerity.   It was, after all, the message that Jesus preached that made him popular, and that should have been the substance of his meeting with Jesus.  But the Pharisee does not even seem to be aware of the message that Jesus was teaching.  Indeed Jesus scolds the Pharisee for not providing some of the customary honors due an important guest- no water to cool and wash his feet; and no oil to anoint his head.  So, the Pharisee is not displaying that he is honored by Jesus acceptance.  Rather, it is as if he feels that it is an honor for Jesus to be in his presence.  On the contrary, the sinful woman lavishes honor on Jesus and displays true humility.  She bathes Jesus with her tears, and anoints him with a fine perfume.  This woman was repenting- she had taken to heart her own inadequacies.  She was responding to the message that Jesus had proclaimed, and she was determined to lay it all out in sincerity to Jesus.  The Pharisee does not even seem aware of his sin or the need to repent.  Rather the Pharisee was preoccupied with his own importance, and not the opportunity to internalize Jesus message first hand.

How about you and I?  Are we here to honor Jesus and to repent of our sinful tendencies?  Or are we deluding ourselves by thinking that our presence sets us apart from our sinful neighbor?  Jesus is looking for our burdens, our sin, and our repentance.  He is not looking for a list of our perceived strengths.  Our challenge is always and everywhere to strive to be like him.  Or, as Paul put it in Timothy:  “Let no one have contempt for youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.” 

Putting Faith Into Action

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

 

September 13, 2009

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Is 50:  4c-9a; James 2: 14-18; Mk 8: 27-35

Deacon Larry Brockman

 

Some churches make it sound easy because they talk about how Faith alone saves.  These folks believe that God loves everyone so much, that all they have to do is believe in him and they are saved!  But we believe that being a Christian is tougher than that.  Just consider what we heard today from James:  That “Faith without works is dead”!  That certainly sounds like it takes more than Faith to be a Christian.

In fact, the arguments about faith and works are at the center of theological debates between various Christian denominations about salvation.  We won’t go into the theology of the two sides.  Rather, we will look at the matter in practical ways.   

That last sentence of the second reading says it all in a very practical way:  “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”  Indeed, it is easier to see how genuine someone is by what they do, than it is from what they say.   

Now most of us find ourselves immersed in the sea of life, too busy with all the things that life demands to engage in a debate about faith and works.  Like it or not, our lives are filled with works.  We do things for our family; including feeding, educating, chauffeuring and a whole lot more; we do things at our jobs; sometimes for 10 to 12 hours a day; we do things for the government; like pay taxes, participate in civic projects, and voting; and we do things for our health; like working out, jogging, dieting, and more.  Indeed, our lives are full of activities- these are works.  And not a day goes by that we aren’t challenged to do more of them just to get by.  But are these things we do demonstrating our faith?  Or are they a way of life driven by circumstances?  In other words, is our Faith something that we devote to Sunday Mornings, with the rest of our lives being filled with works that just demonstrate that we are caught in the flow dictated by the secular world.   

Now in today’s Gospel, Jesus says:  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.  And so, Jesus wants us to demonstrate that we are following him by our actions.  But they are not just any actions.  They are actions that display our faith in what Jesus did and taught.  They are actions that display some dying to self, and picking up some sort of cross.  These crosses don’t have to be some horrible painful ordeal.  God took that on himself.  That’s what the good news of the Gospel is about, that God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die that horrible death for us to save us all.  Rather, our crosses include bearing with our busy lives with the right understanding.  And that understanding is this:  That no matter how demanding living in secular society is, you have an obligation to make a sacrifice by dying a little bit to yourself, by giving up some of your “time just for me”, and using that time in an effort to make a difference in the world. 

Today we are giving you two golden opportunities to re-evaluate your lives, and find a way to demonstrate your Faith through Christian works. First, we are conducting our yearly Ministry Faire after all the Masses today,  and so all of you can hear about the wonderful work that our many ministries are doing.  You can choose one or more to be involved in.  There are spiritual enrichment programs- Bible Studies, Emmaus Retreats, Devotion Groups, Prayer Groups, Perpetual Adoration, and more.  There are social service organizations, like the Men’s Club, KOC, the Ladies Association, St. Vincent de Paul, and others.  There are ways for you to participate more actively in our liturgies- by becoming an EMHC, a Reader, an Altar server, a member of the Music Ministry, or an Usher; ways to support our Sacramental Preparation programs through Prep, BHF, the Baptism Ministry, and RCIA; ways to help support our Youth and Young Adult Groups;  ways to get involved with the Right to Life by joining Respect Life; and ways to help the poor and sick through our Hospital Ministry, St Martin de Pours, Bereavement, and others.  Indeed, the Parish has a great many ways for all of you to perform Christian Works- something for everybody; a way to use your talents, whatever they may be.  I hope you will all consider a way to get involved.   

The second opportunity you have today is to participate in the Spiritual Adoption Program the Parish is launching today.  This program is a way of “making a difference” collectively as a whole parish.  So, what is Spiritual Adoption?  Picture a young woman who just discovered that she is 7 weeks pregnant.  For one reason or another- pressure from society or the father, her own goals in life, or her social status- she is considering an abortion.  We don’t know her name- but we know she is out there.  Why, because since Roe vs Wade, the number of abortions has increased to 1.4 million year.  That means there are 4,000 women in the USA who not only are considering an abortion this very day, but who will actually abort their child today.  4000 just today!  We are asking you to adopt today one of the children whose Mom is thinking of aborting them. 

Did you know, for example, that the 7 week old little one you adopt today, has a heart that has been beating for a month, and that he or she can already flex their toes and suck on their thumb.  But this little one is totally dependent on the Mom.  So we are asking you to help the Mom.  We know that prayer can and does make a difference.  Please pray for both the Mom and the Child over the next 8 months. we are confident that if the parish prays for them,  God will hear our prayers and save some of them by moving their Mom’s and Families to reconsider. 

By the way, we will keep you informed over the next 8 months how your child is developing using the banners posted out in the parking lot and notices in the bulletin. 

Look now at the end of each pew.  There are “pledge cards” for you to fill out.  Take one for your adopted child- you, your spouse, and each of your children can each participate, or you can adopt a child as a family project.  Fill in a name for your child.  Tear off the larger portion, the prayer card, and keep it.  We ask you to pray this ten second prayer each day over the next 8 months.  Then take the rest of the signup card forward to the altar and place it in the basket there.  If you need more time to think it over, or you want to discuss it as a family, you can bring the cards back later and put them in the basket next Sunday at the Respect Life Table in the Narthex.  After that, the basket will be in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel for the next 8 months.  At the end of the nine month period, we will ask each person who adopted a child to bring a “baby shower” gift on Mothers Day to the Church.  We will collect the gifts and get them to the JMJ Pregnancy Crisis Center.  These gifts are a tangible way for us to help mothers who have decided in favor of the beautiful gift of life.  We will wait a few moments now for you to bring the cards forward.     

As you make an effort today to die a little to your self, consider this.  Today we heard one of the most beautiful readings in the Old Testament.  The reading tells us that no matter how much we suffer, when we do God’s will, we will prevail.  Why?  Because “The Lord God is my help, who will prove me wrong”. 

Feeling the Good News

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

 

September 3, 2009

Thursday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time

Col 1:9-14; Lk 5: 1-11

Dc. Larry Brockman

Don’t you feel it- the good news, the news that you have been delivered from the power of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of God?  Yes, you.  You may be having problems with your job; overwhelmed with the demands of your children; suffering from the aches and pains of older age; or pre-occupied with what your going to do after you leave here today.  But this good news is still for you and you should feel it! 

The Apostles felt it.  Just imagine yourselves in their shoes.  You have fished all night-  and you are an expert- a professional- but nothing.  And then you go out one more time at Jesus command, and, Walla, so many fish that they nearly sink two boats.  The gospel says “they left everything and followed him”.  So yes, they felt it.  They felt personally touched by the nearness of God; by the power of God; and by the reality of the one God of the universe calling them in person to follow him along his footsteps.  They somehow put the concerns they had over job, family, health, and duty into proper perspective.  The direct encounter with God was so important to them that they did that. 

Now later in the Gospel, we hear about Peter’s mother in law, for example.  So it isn’t like these Apostles abandoned or totally discounted family, health, job and duty.  Rather, they were able to get the proper perspective on life, a perspective that Paul addresses in the first reading:  They were motivated to seek the knowledge of God’s will.  They were able to walk in a manner pleasing to Him; and through knowledge of God, they were strengthened by the power of God to learn endurance and patience.  This way of life led them to Christian joy.  It was a joy that all of the problems and trials of life, when these problems are experienced as a Christian, could not be taken away from them.  It is a joy sealed by the certain knowledge of their membership in everlasting life through Jesus. 

In a few moments, you are going to have a real encounter with Jesus.  He will become present to you in the Eucharist.  He is making the same promise of everlasting life to you in the living word that we just read, so rejoice, and feel the joy, because life, no matter how burdensome it may seem, is worth it.